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Meatless Monday: Survive spring gatherings and cookouts on special diets

Few things are better than cooking and eating outside. 

I grew up in a place that took its barbecue seriously — grilling season started on Easter, not Memorial Day. And barbecue was never just grilled, it was grilled and smothered with sauce. There’s a big difference. 

I loved my steak as a kid, and there was nothing better than the smell that blasted through the house when my Mom (yes, my mom was the grill master in our home) came through the patio door after turning the meat on the grill. 

Grilling and cookout season is one of the highlights of spring and summer, and it’s trailing us really close as graduation gets closer. After all, there’s a lot of good grilling and cake to be had during graduation party season. 

Vegans and vegetarians need not be shy about participating in the fun. I get it, because I have been there — going to cookouts can be really awkward if you’ve got special food needs.

I’ve mentioned some of these tips before when talking about how to navigate the Thanksgiving and Christmas table with a special diet, but they bear mentioning as we get ready to fire up the grill. 

  • Share the bounty: Bringing a dish to your host as a gesture of goodwill is just good manners. If you’re not sure if there will be a dish for you at the party, or you’re uncomfortable with picking meat out of the casserole to make it meatless, whip up your favorite sharable dish and bring enough to go around. It’s fun to share new things with friends and it’ll guarantee you’ll have something to eat beyond pickings from the vegetable tray. This can be as simple as bringing a box of your own veggie burgers or as elaborate as baking a batch of cookies from scratch. 
  • Be honest: Most close friends probably know if you’ve got any food restrictions. Most hosts would rather take the extra step to be accommodating than learn after the fact that you were hungry and uncomfortable the whole time. 
  • Eat beforehand: This might defeat the purpose of eating at a party, but if you’re truly worried about not being able to eat much at a cookout, eat something before heading out. It’ll stave off the grumbles before you get hangry and at least you’ll be able to snack on chips and veggie sticks if you’re so inclined. 
  • Throw your own party: Give friends and family a chance to sit back, crack open a drink and let you do the cooking. Variety and simple foods are key for introducing friends to new food, so stick to some basics. It’s a good way to let them learn a little more about a different food lifestyle. 
Follow digital producer Danielle Waldron on Twitter @DanielleWaldron

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